Man Convicted in Death of State Trooper Justin Schaffer Sentenced to 45 Years in Prison 


A Lewis County Superior Court judge has sentenced William Thompson, the man convicted last month for the March 2020 murder of Washington State Patrol Trooper Justin R. Schaffer, to 45 years in prison. 

That number was agreed to by Schaffer’s family as part of a plea agreement Thompson signed on June 21. 

“Some believe plea bargains are evil, but they are a necessary evil that does allow people to move on,” said Judge J. Andrew Toynbee, who delivered Thompson’s sentence Tuesday in front of a courtroom packed with Schaffer’s family, friends, community members and colleagues from local law enforcement. 

While Thompson’s case was initially set to go to trial, Schaffer’s family agreed to a plea bargain in order to spare Schaffer’s State Patrol colleagues and other witnesses to Schaffer’s murder the pain of testifying at trial, according to Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer. 

“We know where Justin got the desire to serve his community and he got it from his mom and dad,” Meyer said. 

Schaffer’s parents did agree on a 45-year sentence, “but we are in no way saying that you should stop there,” said Schaffer’s father, Glenn Schaffer, to Toynbee during his testimony at Thompson’s sentencing hearing on Tuesday. 

Glenn Schaffer and Justin Schaffer’s mother, Sheila Schaffer, both spoke Tuesday on Justin’s life and the grief they’ve endured since Justin’s death. 

“My voice is going to shake because I am both nervous and enraged and I’ve thought about this moment sitting here to give this statement for over two years,” Glenn Schaffer said. 

As of Thompson’s sentencing on Tuesday, it had been 833 days since Thompson’s vehicle struck Justin Schaffer while he was placing spike strips on Interstate 5 in an effort to end a pursuit.

While he’d been told that time would help heal the grief of losing his son, Glenn Schaffer said, “The only thing that time can guarantee is that tomorrow will be 834.”

As part of the plea agreement, Thompson entered Alford pleas, which allow him to take advantage of a plea bargain without admitting guilt, to first-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder. 

Thompson initially pleaded not guilty to 13 charges — including first-degree aggravated murder — in November 2020 for hitting and killing Justin Schaffer, 28, of Chehalis.

“This is perhaps one of the most senseless acts I have seen in my experience, whether it was as a defense attorney or as a prosecutor,” Meyer said of Thompson’s actions on March 24, 2020.

The pursuit had started when a deputy with the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office identified Thompson as a suspect in a shoplifting incident from the day before and initiated a traffic stop.

“At any point during that call, Mr. Thompson could have pulled over and surrendered peacefully … He would have been treated with dignity and respect,” said Camm Clark, the deputy who initiated the fateful traffic stop. 

Had the spike strips stopped Thompson’s vehicle, or had Thompson been in some other danger, Glenn Schaffer said his son would have saved him because that’s the kind of person he was. 

“But who he is doesn’t matter. He was no threat and he meant no harm,” Glenn Schaffer said. 

While some involved in that call chose to leave law enforcement as a result, Clark said he decided to dedicate himself to becoming a better peace officer as a way to honor Justin Schaffer. 

“I had my ways to deal with this call and I chose to get better,” he said. “It’s not from the trauma that I suffered, it’s to honor Justin Schaffer.” 

Through tears, Clark apologized to Schaffer’s friends, family and colleagues in the courtroom on Tuesday for not being able to do more to prevent Schaffer’s death. 

“If there was something else I could have done, I would have done it,” Clark said. “But there is only one person to blame — William Thompson. Or as I like to call him, monster,” said Clark, later adding, “If he ever sees freedom, no one will be safe.” 

Thompson himself delivered an apology to Schaffer’s family, friends, colleagues and the community Tuesday for his actions and for making the decision to go off his medication, which he said caused him to act the way he did the day of Justin Schaffer’s death. 

“I hope that the family … and community will forgive me,” he said. “Again, I’m sorry.” 

Thompson’s attorney, Don Blair, said Thompson’s decision to accept the plea deal rather than take the case to trial was “probably his best chance to try and relieve some of the pain that he caused.” He added that “nobody disputes that he caused it,” saying the trial would only have been about “why it happened.” 

Blair said there were “strong mental health elements” to this case and he believed Thompson “didn’t understand what he was doing.” 

A competency assessment completed in early April 2020 found Thompson not competent to stand trial, and the case was put on hold while Thompson received treatment. The case resumed after a Washington State Department of Health review released in October found Thompson competent to stand trial. He was transferred from a treatment facility to the Lewis County Jail on March 24, 2021, and was being held on $5 million restricted bail until he entered his Alford pleas last month.

Had the case gone to trial, Blair said “there wouldn’t have been any winners at all” as he believed a trial would only have one of two outcomes: Thompson would spend the rest of his life in prison, or in a mental health treatment facility. 

Blair added that he couldn’t guarantee Thompson, 41, would be alive at the end of his 45-year jail sentence. 

“This finally starts to bring closure to a suffering, but by no means it's the end,” Meyer said of the plea agreement. 

The pain of Schaffer’s death will continue past the conclusion of his killer’s court case, but so will Schaffer’s impact on his community. 

“If I may be selfish. I wish I’d met Justin … Because from everything I’ve heard, he was an exemplary leader, trooper and human being,” Toynbee said on Tuesday. “As powerful as a judge may be, there is also a powerlessness to be able to set right something that’s gone wrong.” 

Toynbee explained he was limited by the sentencing range set by the state for the crimes Thompson entered Alford pleas for. The only feasible way for Toynbee to sentence Toynbee above that range would be for a jury to rule there were special circumstances, such as a vulnerable victim, to the crime. 

“There is no magical sentence I can give and the law is very unmagical, especially in a situation like this,” Toynbee said. 

Given the effort that both parties put into the plea agreement, Toynbee said, “I’m not going to upset what they agreed upon.” 

As part of the agreement, Thompson will be required to pay restitution to Justin Schaffer’s family and must serve an additional 36 months on probation upon his release 

A restitution hearing is scheduled for October.

From the Washington State Patrol Memorial Foundation:

“Justin R. Schaffer was born on January 30, 1992, in Glenwood Springs, Colorado to Glenn and Sheila Schaffer. In 2006, Schaffer and his family moved to Chehalis. He graduated from Adna High School in 2010 and went on to earn his associate degree in Criminal Justice from Centralia College in 2012. Schaffer met his wife, Sandra, when the two worked together at Grocery Outlet in Chehalis. They began dating in January 2012, and married in August 2013. Schaffer was hired by Washington State Patrol in November 2013 as a Trooper Cadet assigned to the Property Management Division. On January 13, 2014, Trooper Cadet Schaffer started his training with the 27th Arming Class. On February 14, 2014, Trooper Cadet Schaffer continued his training with the 103rd Trooper Basic Training Class and was commissioned on September 16, 2014, assigned to Morton. On September 1, 2016, Trooper Schaffer was assigned as a certified Drug Recognition Expert. On November 10, 2018, Trooper Schaffer completed K9 training and was a certified K9 handler to his partner ‘Frankie.’ Trooper Schaffer transferred to Chehalis on December 13, 2018. Trooper Schaffer passed away on March 24, 2020, at the age of 28. Justin was fatally struck by a vehicle when placing spike strips down on Interstate 5 in Chehalis. At the time of his death, Trooper Schaffer had served 7 years with the Washington State Patrol. Trooper Schaffer is survived by his wife, Sandra, his mother and father Sheila and Glenn, his brother Brandon, sister in law Samantha and his K9 partner Frankie.”